Principles of warfare


Principles of warfare

Principles of warfare are the evolved concepts, laws, rules and methods that guide the conduct of combat related activities during conflicts. Throughout history, soldiers, military theorists, political leaders, philosophers, academic scholars, practitioners of international law and human rights advocacy groups have sought to determine fundamental rules for the conduct of warfare. Principles of warfare impact on the health and security of civilian populations in a zone of conflict, human and natural environment, social networks and groups, rural and urban societies, national and international economic relations, political structures and international diplomacy, and the means and methods by which conflicts are brought to conclusion. These approaches have been both prescriptive, stating what activities are forbidden in warfare by law, ethical considerations, or religious beliefs, and descriptive, analyzing the best practices and means by which armed forces can achieve victory.

Prescriptive principles of warfare

Ancient principles

The Book of Deuteronomy prescribes how the Israelite army was to fight, including dealing with plunder, enslavement of the enemy women and children and forbidding the destruction of fruit-bearing trees.

Modern principles

The Hague and Geneva Conventions
"See: Hague Conventions, Geneva Conventions"

20th century issues
There are several issues where appropriate the laws of land warfare are ambiguous or obsolescent. Among these are the use of private contractors as soldiers or private armies and whether they are mercenaries or not under international conventions.

In addition, several classes of weapons, such as land mines or cluster bombs, have been decried by non-governmental organizations and some governments as inherently inhumane. However, the United States has refused to denounce the use of these weapons. In the case of land mines, the U.S. position is that all U.S.-planted mines are clearly marked and mapped, and that all U.S.-planted mines can be deactivated by remote command. The People's Liberation Army also continues to use land mines.

A third issue is the prisoner status of members of organizations which use methods to terrorise society such as al-Queda. The United States interprets the laws of land warfare in such a way as to exclude captives from these organizations from the status of prisoner of war. Other nations and several international organizations believe that the U.S. interpretation is too narrow and can lead to abuse of innocent parties.

Descriptive principles of warfare

un Tzu

Sun Tzu's "The Art of War", written approximately in 400 B.C., listed five basic factors for a commander to consider:

* The Moral Law, or discipline and unity of command
* Heaven, or weather factors
* Earth, or the terrain
* The Commander;
* Method and discipline, which included logistics and supply

However, Sun Tzu implied individual initiative as a principle of warfare, stating "According as circumstances are favorable, one should modify one's plans."

19th Century Western theoreticians

Carl von Clausewitz, in his book "Vom Kriege" (On War) published in 1832, and Antoine Henri Jomini in his book, "Precis de l'Art de Guerre", published in 1838, developed theories of warfare based on the concepts and methods used during the Napoleonic Wars. Jomini's approach was more theoretical than that of von Clausewitz.

Colonel Ardant du Picq, a French infantry officer who was killed in the Franco-Prussian War, prepared drafts based on his observations of military history which became the book "Battle Studies". In it two of Du Picq's observations stand out:
* Combat is the object, the cause of being, and the supreme manifestation of an army and must be the focus of training, even in peacetime.
* The human element is more important than theories. War is still more of an art than a science. [Du Picq, Ardant. Battle Studies. Translated from the 8th Edition by Col. John N. Greely, Field Artillery, U.S. Army, and Major Robert C. Cotton, General Staff. Available on Project Gutenberg. http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/gutbook/lookup?num=7294]

Applied Principles of Warfare

Admiral William S. Sims, who commanded the U.S. Navy's contribution to the British Grand Fleet in World War I, wrote of the U.S. Naval War College:

The college aims to supply principles, not rules, and by training, develop the habit of applying these principles logically, correctly, and rapidly to each situation that may arise.This habit can be acquired only through considerable practice, hence the numerous problems in strategy and tactics. [Sims, William S. (Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy). "The United States Naval War College." Proceedings of the United States Naval Institute 45:9 [September 1919] . 1485-1493]

Modern NATO principles of warfare

The British historian J.F.C. Fuller developed a set of eight principles of warfare between 1912 and 1924:
* Objective
* Offensive Action
* Surprise
* Concentration
* Economy of Force
* Security
* Mobility and Cooperation

In 1994, the U.S. Army's "Field Manual 100-5" listed the following basic principles:

*"Objective": Direct every military operation toward a clearly defined, decisive and attainable objective. "The ultimate military purpose of war is the destruction of the enemy's armed forces and will to fight."
*"Offensive": Seize, retain, and exploit the initiative. Even in defense, a military organization is expected to maintain a level of aggressiveness by patrolling and launching limited counter-offensives.
*"Mass": Mass the effects of overwhelming combat power at the decisive place and time.
*"Economy of Force": Employ all combat power available in the most effective way possible; allocate minimum essential combat power to secondary efforts.
*"Maneuver": Place the enemy in a position of disadvantage through the flexible application of combat power.
*"Unity of Command": For every objective, seek unity of command and unity of effort.
*"Security": Never permit the enemy to acquire unexpected advantage.
*"Surprise": Strike the enemy at a time or place or in a manner for which he is unprepared.
*"Simplicity": Prepare clear, uncomplicated plans and concise orders to ensure thorough understanding.

The British military adds to the above list:
* Maintenance of Morale
* Administration.

The Russian doctrine is similar, but includes the concept of "Annihilation" as well.

These principles of warfare are very broad, and are tied in to military doctrine of the various military services. Doctrine, in turn, suggests but does not dictate strategy and tactics.

References


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